Saturday, July 28, 2018

Finish of Our Western Slope Bird Breeding Survey July 18-7/23/2018

July 18-23, 2018

Richard Stevens:

Terry and I finished out western slope breeding survey.  Inclement weather did cut our trip short by a week.  NOTE:  monsoons came; it rained everyday since July 22.

To skip the weather patterns in the mountain, temperatures ranged into the high 80s during the day.  Winds were 7-8 mph with gusts to 20+ in afternoons.

July 18

Our birding day started at Garfield Creek Wildlife Area (Garfield County).  The habitat has riparian area, sagebrush, pinon-juniper, oak brush, open meadows and coniferous forest.  There is quite a variety for one Wildlife Area.

Brewer's Sparrows were everywhere.  We also encountered two Sage Thrashers, a Juniper Titmouse, a "rare" Black-throated Sparrow, and a Sagebrush Sparrow.  Highlight was a Dusky Grouse.

Next, we headed up Coffee Pot Road (Garfield).  The day was spent exploring Bison, Heart and Deep Lakes.  We made it as far north at Triangle Mountain.  After dark, we camped at White Owl Lake.  NOTE: a 4-wheel vehicle is a must for much of our final birding days.

On the drive up Coffee Pot Road, we stopped at locations visited in previous years (previous GPS waypoint locations).  Five Williamson's Sapsuckers, two American Three-toed Woodpeckers and a flock of 14 Red Crossbills were observed.  No White-winged Crossbills were found this trip.

Our two "owl listening stations" were set up between the turnoff for White Owl Lake and the three lakes to the north.

A Barrow's Goldeneye was on Bison Lake.  While another was found on Heart Lake.  The usual mountain suspects were encountered.  Nothing uncommon was detected.

Triangle Mountain added four Purple Martins (two locations), six American Three-toed Woodpeckers (four locations) and a Dusky Grouse.

Later we had recorded a Boreal Owl at Heart Lake and a Flammulated Owl along Forest Road 601.  No owls were found in real time at the lake trio.  Two Boreal Owls were heard only at White Owl Lake.

July 19

A walk around White Owl Lake in the morning found two American Three-toed Woodpeckers (an adult male feeding a young male).

On the trip back to I70, we ran into Purple Martins at two locations (same locations as 2017 & 2013), five American Three-toed Woodpeckers (spread over three stops) and a Dusky Grouse.

Misses: White-winged Crossbills appeared difficult to find this summer.  No Northern Saw-whet Owls were run across.

We then drove up the Colorado River Road and detoured to Sweetwater Lake and Hack Lake.  Four Purple Martins were found with a hike along Forest Road 151 (again close to previous GPS waypoints).  This road definitely requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

A flock of four Pinyon Jays flew around Sweetwater Lake.  Another American Three-toed Woodpecker was found.  Purple Martin nesting trees found last year appeared not to be used this year.  A Slate-colored Fox Sparrow popped out of the willows.

Hack Lake added another American Three-toed Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Warbling Vireos and Calliope Hummingbird to our day list.  After dark, a Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to our recordings.

Returning to Sweetwater Lake after dark, we heard another Northern Pygmy-Owl and not much else.

July 20

Today we drove up South Derby Creek Road (Forest Road 613) off the Colorado River Road.  We birded Emerald, Still Waters and Crescent Lakes and continued to Sheep Mountain.

White-tailed Ptarmigan probably live on Sheep Mountain unfortunately neither of us was up to the climb.

One American Three-toed Woodpecker, two Band-tailed Pigeons, a Pine Grosbeak pair, Red Crossbills (no White-winged Crossbill) were found just west of Still Waters Lake (Garfield).

Crescent Lake added two additional American Three-toed Woodpeckers, Pine Grosbeaks, a Fox Sparrow and Band-tailed Pigeons to our day.  After dark, we thought a Long-eared Owl called?

Best bird of the day was a Boreal Owl calling at Still Waters Lake (near previous GPS waypoint, Garfield County).  A Flammulated Owl responded to our recording at Emerald Lake (Eagle County).

We were finished with Garfield County and headed toward Mt Holy Cross area.  Although many days could be spent at any of the locations, we only could stay for a few hours.

July 21

Terry and I listened for owls around the Campgrounds below Mt. Holy Cross (Eagle County).  Only two Great Horned Owls were detected this morning.  In previous years, Northern Pygmy-Owls, Flammulated Owls and a Boreal Owl have been recorded along Forest Road 707.

After sunrise, we found MacGillivray's Warbler, Wilson's Warblers, a Virginia's Warbler, Slate-colored Fox Sparrow, and Wilson's Warblers.  Willow Flycatchers, Cordilleran Flycatchers and a Dusky Flycatcher were all recorded.  The riparian area below the Campgrounds is quite picturesque.

Neither of us desired to climb Mt. Holy Cross.  I had done that many years ago in the 90s and did catch a White-tailed Ptarmigan sighting.

A female Dusky Grouse and three young crossed Forest Road 707 when we drove back to highway 24.

Two Purple Martins were using a nesting tree that I had found along Homestake Creek (Forest Road 703) in 2008 & 2013.

After dark, we found three Flammulated Owls (separate locations along Forest Road 703).  A Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to our recordings play at a GPS waypoint marked in 2013 & 2010.

July 22

Early in the morning, a Northern Pygmy-Owl responded to our recordings at Gold Park Campgrounds.  

A hike up Forest Road 759 along French Creek added a Dusky Grouse to our day list.  Several Hermit Thrushes sang in the cool morning air.  I decided to skip the long hike to Cleveland Lake; instead, we returned to 703 and went up Forest Road 704 (Missouri Creek).

Daylight: two American Three-toed Woodpeckers, Hermit Thrushes, Red Crossbills (no White-winged Crossbills), Cordilleran Flycatchers, Dusky Flycatcher, many Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, one Rufous Hummingbird, and a Williamson's Sapsucker were found.

After dark, two Flammulated Owls along Forest Road 704 and Northern Pygmy-Owl Forest Road 703 were heard.  

July 23

We camped near the A.M. Bailey Bird Sanctuary (Summit) trailhead and headed up the trail several hours before sunrise.  It is only about 1/2 mile to the Sanctuary.

Our "owl listening stations" were set up along the trail.  Neither picked up any owl activity.  Bird activity at the sanctuary was another story.  Fox Sparrows, MacGillivray's Warblers, Wilson's Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Pine Siskins were all singing.

In spite of being tired, we hiked up the Ptarmigan trail.  Fortunately, we only had to hike about 3/4 a mile before spotting our target bird; a female White-tailed Ptarmigan was not quite hidden in the granite rocks.

On the walk back to our car, we found two American Three-toed Woodpeckers along the east side of the trail!

Storms were looming to the west and we continued back to Denver.

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